New Zealand mass shooting suspect Brenton Tarrant has fired his lawyer and plans to represent himself in court, a new report claims.
The 28-year-old Australian man is in custody and faces murder charges for the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s history. Police say Tarrant opened fire at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, killing men, women, and children in an attack that has left 50 people dead.
As the New Zealand Herald reported, Tarrant decided to fire lawyer Richard Peters and plans to represent himself during court proceedings. As Peters noted, he has seen no signs that Tarrant would be deemed mentally unfit to hold trial and that the accused shooter believes he will do a better job of representing himself than a court-appointed attorney.
“What did seem apparent to me is he seemed quite clear and lucid, whereas this may seem like very irrational behavior,” Peters said. “He didn’t appear to me to be facing any challenges or mental impairment, other than holding fairly extreme views.”
Peters’ assessment could mean that Tarrant would be found competent to stand trial and would not be able to offer an insanity plea. It could also mean that Tarrant has the power to launch his own defense and potentially examine witnesses or victims of the shooting.
Brenton Tarrant has reportedly admitted to the shootings and posted a manifesto online in which he espoused far-right, white supremacist ideas about immigration. Tarrant also shared details about the planning of the attack, which reportedly took two years.
Family members have shed some new light on what may have motivated the 28-year-old to commit such an atrocity. As Nine News reported, family members said he was a quiet young man who was interested mostly in browsing the internet and playing video games. His grandmother, 81-year-old Marie Fitzgerald, said she got the impression that “girlfriends were on the agenda” for Brenton during his younger years.
But Fitzgerald said something changed drastically when Tarrant took a trip to Europe. In his manifesto, Tarrant echoed white supremacist ideas that immigration was diluting western and white heritage.
Breaking: Alleged Christchurch mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant fires his attorney, says he wants to represent himself in court https://t.co/7VMvDSxyM7
— Anna Fifield (@annafifield) March 17, 2019
Some have expressed concerns that Brenton Tarrant may want to represent himself so he has a venue to continue sharing his white supremacist ideas. In his first court appearance since the massacre on Friday, Tarrant was photographed flashing the thumb-and-forefinger “OK” symbol that many white supremacists have adopted as a sign meaning “white power.”